Oscar Pistorius meets a damn good judge

You need to read this Huffington Post article: Bail set for Oscar Pistorius

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I am very impressed with this Pretorian Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair. He’s a damn good judge. I have not read the entire transcript of the ruling, but I understand that the judge went through the history of bond – from Roman time, through the Bohr Wars, to present times. Then he took an objective and analytical look at the case against Pistorius. He also carefully considered Pistorius’ history, prior acts, and possible incentive to flee prosecution. His ruling was well-reasoned, well-articulated (in the linked article, the Huffington Post writer calls it “agonizingly slow” – isn’t justice worth the wait?), and legal. The hearing was lengthy, but the ruling took almost 2 hours!!

Under Florida law, the same standards apply as apparently exist under South African law: weighing the facts and circumstances of the allegations, vis-a-vis the defendant’s history. The difference in application, however, is stunning: in Florida state criminal cases, we rarely find judges willing to undertake a “bond study” and insider the factors in Florida Statutes chapter 903 and Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.131 & 3.132.

I encourage judges to take a more analytical approach to the issue of a defendant’s right to bond. The right to liberty is one of the most basic of fundamental Constitutional guarantees. To take it away requires much thought and a very good reason or set of reasons to do so . . . and a damn good judge to properly perform that task. Damn good judges are as willing to grant bond as they are to deny it. Think about that.

Taking an extra 10 minutes on a docket. Reading the court file in advance of a bond hearing. Permitting the defense attorney more time to prepare, or offering an opportunity to address the issues in a motion for rehearing. All of those considerations are greatly appreciated when I am trying desperately to secure my client’s release. Other than just saying “denied” and flipping the docket to a new page, listen to me. Consider the factors that the Florida Legislature and Florida Supreme Court have said are to be considered (you have to, it is not optional).

For those judges that already give full concentration, concern, analysis, consideration, and make informed and detailed bond rulings – you are in the ranks of Magistrate Nair: the league of damn good judges.

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